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Dhaka Tribune

Lightning strike: Experts urge increasing social awareness to reduce casualties

  • 3,500 people killed by lightning in the last six years
  • Six people died in four districts on Tuesday 
  • Lightning strike becomes growing concern in Bangladesh
Update : 18 Apr 2024, 09:28 AM

Six people died in four districts of Bangladesh due to lightning strikes during Nor’wester or Kalbaishakhi on Tuesday afternoon. 

Among them, two men died in Shibchar of Madaripur and Dirai of Sunamganj respectively and one each in Raipura of Narsingdi and Dhamrai of Dhaka.

As lightning has become a growing concern in Bangladesh in recent years, experts have urged to increase social awareness to reduce the number of deaths in this disaster.

Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of death by lightning on the planet with over three hundred recorded fatalities in any one year, compared to less than 20 fatalities in the United States of America, which has almost double the population, according to a report of United Nations (UN).

As carbon emission build in the earth’s atmosphere and average global temperatures rise, the frequency and intensity of powerful storms is increasing in northern Bangladesh and nearby Nepal, leading to more lightning strikes, according to the report.

In 2016, the government added lightning strikes to the country’s list of official disasters alongside floods, earthquakes, cyclones and other climate shocks.

According to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, 2,164 people died in lightning strikes in the country from 2011 to 2020.

A call for awareness

According to statistics by Save the Society and Thunderstorm Awareness Forum (SSTF), 2016-17 saw the highest number of lightning deaths in the country. About 450 people were killed by lightning strikes in the country that year. Among them, 82 people died in one day.

According to the Directorate of Disaster Management, Buet (Bangladesh University and Engineering and Technology), Disaster Forum, media information and several voluntary organizations, more than 3,500 people have been killed by lightning across the country in the last six years.

Disaster experts said that one should not stay in open areas, open fields or high places during lightning strikes. 

If anyone stays in a paddy field or open field during lightning, he/she should quickly sit on his/her toes and put their fingers in their ears and keep their head down. They should take shelter under buildings or concrete shelters as soon as possible, according to experts. 

They should not stay under tin-shed roofs, tall trees, electric poles and wire or metal poles, or mobile towers. 

“If dark clouds appear in the sky, people should come away from rivers, ponds, waterbodies or reservoirs. Staying inside the car during lightning one should not make body contact with the metal parts of the car. If possible, the vehicle should be sheltered under a concrete shade. If people are at home during the lightning strikes, they should close windows and balcony windows and stay away from electrical equipment inside the house.”

At the same time, disaster experts have advised people to refrain from using all electrical equipment, including mobiles, laptops, computers, landphones, TVs and fridges, during lightning.

People should not use umbrellas with metal handles during thunderstorms. In case of emergency, they should use umbrellas with plastic or wooden handles, they said. 

Experts advised not going fishing in uncovered boats during thunderstorms. At this time, if anyone is on the sea or river, he should stop fishing and stay under the canopy of the boat. 

The experts also suggested not touching metal objects, metal stair railings, pipes, etc, during lightning and storms. 

They also have recommended ensuring installation of lightning rods in every building.

“If a house does not have adequate security measures, then everyone is advised to stay in separate rooms rather than in one room. If someone is injured by lightning strike, they should be given treatment in the same way as those injured by electric shock.”

“ If necessary, the doctor should be called quickly or taken to the hospital. Attempts should be made to restore the victim's breathing and heartbeat.”

How lightning strike occurs

According to experts, due to the adverse effects of climate, frequent lightning strikes are occurring. Climate change has also increased the intensity of lightning strikes.

As the surface water evaporates and rises, the water vapour collides with the heavier particles below the cloud. As a result, many water molecules lose electrons and become positively charged. Again, many water molecules accept electrons and become negatively charged. When the charged water vapour turns into a cloud, a large amount of static electricity is generated in the cloud. At this time the relatively light positive charge remains at the top of the cloud and the relatively heavy negative charge remains at the bottom. When these two opposite charges in the cloud are sufficient, the discharge process begins. Discharging causes an electric spark to flow through the air. This flow of electrical sparks is lightning.

Those concerned think that the increase in temperature and lead content in the air, excessive use of metallic materials in public life, the increase in the use of mobile phones and their towers, the decrease in the number of tall trees in forests or rural areas at an alarming rate, the filling of swamplands and the drying up of rivers are among the reasons for the increase in lightning strikes. These things are related to climate change and global warming.

Water resources and climate change expert Ainun Nishat said: “Lightning is very normal. It occurs in the first week of Baishakh. It is very natural that thunderstorms and cyclones will take place during the last week of Jyestha month.

Climate change could be a reason behind the increase in lightning strikes

He has urged building  awareness in this regard.

 “Death can be avoided only by following traditional (rural) knowledge to prevent casualties from lightning strikes. Earlier, when people saw rain, they would take shelter in a safe place. That must be done. If we observe the deaths in lightning strikes, it will be seen that the deaths were caused when people did not have safe places to take shelter in during storms.”

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